With all the hoopla about social media marketing and the importance of ROI, I wonder how many businesses have spent time thinking about how they sell. Unless the cash register rings there is no ROI. For most of us the R (return) of the I (investment) comes from a sale.
Want to increase ROI? Increase sales. How you sell - or your sales cycle - should be determined by how your clients come to a buy decision. How your clients buy can vary based on many things such as product -vs- service, price-point, size of "client" (ie: decision by individual, committee, board, etc.) and a number of other factors.
A good rule of thumb is to consider your sales cycle to have 5 phases:
2. Trust/Relationship Development
3. Information Gathering
5. Negotiation & Close
A baseball game makes for a good, simple analogy. The objective of the game is to score a run (make a sale). Before you can score a run (make a sale) you've got to get a batter up to bat (have a presence, an awareness); and so on.
For most businesses the 'typical' social media channel is best suited to getting prospects up to bat (awareness) and then to first base (developing the trust / relationship). Twitter, Facebook updates, LinkedIn group discussions, Blog posts and comments, they all go to increase the awareness of and building our reputation and brand.
For example, you're trying to decide on a topic for a blog post. Think first, what "phase" of your sales cycle are you focusing on? Awareness? Building your reputation as the "go-to" business for your specialty? When you're tweeting, what is it you're trying to get across? That you exist? What's your objective? Knowing your objective as it relates to your sales cycle will help select the social tools as well as how you use them.
Amber Naslund, Director of Community for Radian6, (a social media monitoring & analytics company) had a great post responding to the omnipresent question, "How can I measure ROI on social media efforts?" Her initial response is what I've been saying all along; the first step is to set measurable objectives. But before you know what objectives to set, you have know what it takes to make a sale:
i.e. 1 out of every 5 inquiries leads to a presentation, 3 out of every 5 presentations leads to a sale.
If I've done my math right, 25 inquiries will turn into 3 sales. Therefore an objective could be to get 25 inquiries from your website contact form per day, week, month...etc. That's measurable.
Next, how will you lead people to the contact form; links in a blog post, tweets, Facebook ads? Keep in mind, however that if someone is ready to contact you they've already done some research and/or gotten recommendations. They are aware of who you are (up to bat), what you do and that you're good at it (on first base).
What are some social media tools and corresponding objectives you can leverage to (get more people up to bat) increase the awareness of your product / services? General discussion in group forums such as LinkedIn? Commenting on relevant blog and/or Twitter posts? What would be measurable? Since we're only talking about awareness perhaps it would be to grow your number of "engaged" blog subscribers and/or Twitter followers. Note: "engaged". This isn't just a numbers game. Quality over quantity if you want to ring the register. Another measurable would be to track the number of times your blog posts / tweets are forwarded, tweeted, re-tweeted.
What would you consider appropriate measurable objectives to indicate your success in "getting to second base", i.e. building up your reputation as the "go-to" person in your field? Perhaps increase in % of return visitors to your blog, multiple downloads of free material? Increase the number of times your blog posts are bookmarked on Digg, StumbledUpon, Delicious, etc. ? All easily measurable.
Setting meaningful and measurable objectives is the key to seeing meaningful and measurable ROI from your efforts. In order to to this, you've got to know how your clients buy - so you make sure you're sales cycle is on target.
The reality is the way businesses are selling, as well as marketing is changing. HP and Seagate are both foregoing the Consumer Electronics Show booths in favor of focusing more on small, intimate, experiences for bloggers and OEMs that they needed to meet with. (Original Equipment Manufacturer - I had to look that one up, I'll admit.)
Blog Houses, in addition to the blog parties and suites, are a new trend, popping up at conferences. Robert Scoble talks about the Social Media Club House sponsored by PayPal at the recent LeWeb in Paris.
So what I want to know is who's up for sponsoring the SXSW Club House in Austin next March? Stay tuned.
The importance of the customer service role in the social media era might not be getting the attention it deserves. The stories about Dell Hell and Jet Blue leveraging community forums and Twitter to improve customer service and product development are well-known. But customer service today should go far beyond mere support. I worked in the Global Investor Services group at JPMorgan Chase for many years, before social media storm hit in full force. Even then the client-facing roles had been divided into two groups;
1) Day-to-day service and 2) Strategic client management.
Even if you don't have the resources or staff to literally split the role into two positions, it is critical to have both roles covered.
Customer support is tactical and tends to be reactionary. If something is wrong, the customer support person gets a call and reacts to the request.
Customer management is strategic and proactive, anticipating growth and changing needs then presenting ideas or services to meet these evolving requirements.
Social media is an important channel for both important functions not to mention the product development function. Your clients are connecting with each other like never before; in ways and places that didn't exist a few years ago. The line between the traditional roles of customer service, marketing and product development is blurring.
What should you do?
Make sure your customer service role includes traditional support as well as strategic planning for clients' evolving needs. In addition to questions and complaints, include search terms for potential improvements and business when monitoring the social streams.
Share insights gained monitoring social conversations across business lines in your company, including product development. It doesn't matter where the social media management sits within your organization, as long as the function and communication is integrated throughout.
Bottom line, business needs to become more open and more proactive, in general. Instead of waiting for a customer issue to escalate or waiting for a competitor to move in,
Monitor what your customers are saying offline and online and
Document, prioritize and share across your company.
Use this intelligence to become a partner with your clients, not just another vendor.
Social media is so 'E V E R Y W H E R E'. I'm immersed in it from the moment I wake up until I go to sleep. If this continues, I may need a 12-step program to ween myself back to a 3D world. For me, it's almost second nature - social media is another way of connecting and communicating. I've built relationships with several groups of people, many whom I've never met in 3D.
That's why I am amazed when I stop and think - and realize so many people still don't understand the amazing opportunity that exists using social media. It's not about the tool. It's not about technology. The opportunity is about the relationships you can build.
So, what's your problem??
The problem isn't lack of or access to the tools. The problem isn't budget. The tools are virtually free to use.
The problem is YOU.
You have to have to take the time to learn something new and then you have to have the discipline to get good at it.
To all the "Bobs" in the world (see my last post about turKeys), you're not alone. With any change there is a certain element of uncertainty, if not fear. I'm constantly facing things I'm unfamiliar with or, worse yet, things I finally figured out that have changed - again. It's never ending.
It's not only the technology that is a challenge to keep up with, it's the terminology as well. It's like learning a new language.
Reading Chris Brogan's blog post - My Business Wish List for 2010, I came across yet, another term I wasn't familiar with: skunkworks. Here's how Chris used it:
"I want companies to start their skunkworks projects on how to use
social media internally and externally, and to earmark some of their
“experimental marketing” and their IT spending for such projects"
From the context it seemed that skunkworks is something akin to stealth or think-tank, something outside the normally red-tape laden business channels.
Googling skunkworks, one of the best definitions I came across was on www.webopedia.com:
A typically small and loosely structured group of people who research
and develop a project for the sake of innovation. The term typically is
used in regard to technology projects. A skunkworks often operates
independent of a company’s normal research and development operations
and therefore often is subject to limitations in resources. Skunkworks
projects often are undertaken in secret with the understanding that if
the development is successful then the product will be designed later
according to the usual process. A famous example of a skunkworks
project is the first Apple Macintosh computer.
(According to webopedia, the term comes from the Skonk Works, the Kickapoo Joy Juice bootleg brewing operation in Al Capp’s Li’l Abner comic strip.)
So why is this important to know? It's not the term that's important, it's embracing the meaning. Social technologies isn't a fad. Social media isn't just for finding long-lost college mates or tweeting out a blue light special.
Business as usual is gone. The "way you've always done it" won't work much longer. Social technology is facilitating a fundamental change in the way people connect.
Do you work in a place that resists change? Start a skunkworks project. BE the skunkworks project. Work through some of the "failures" that are inevitable in blazing a new trail out of the glare of the naysayers and the Bob's. Get some traction and experience outside of the normal channels. Get some experience and start to see some positive feedback from the relationships you build. Bob's perceived risk will be reduced and let's face it, even Bob will want to take credit ...er, support a success.
To remain competitive - to remain relevant requires evolution. Innovation is critical to evolution. Innovation can be threatening to the Bobs of this world because their motivation is eliminating risk. Reducing perceived risk with a skunkworks projects can be a win-win formula.
I had the pleasure of attending a recent Portland Chamber of Commerce breakfast event this week. It was a pleasure for a couple of reasons:
The 'speaker' was funny guy, Juston McKinney. He's actually a professional, big time comedian with stints on the Tonight Show, Letterman, etc. etc. under his belt. It was a fun morning that screamed for a Bloody Mary.
The other reason I say that the morning was a pleasure was the insight I gained from a brief conversation with "Bob". (Not his real name. I'm transparent, but not cruel - or stupid.)
Bob is a relative "Big Dog" with Key Bank here in the ME, NH, MA region. At least I assume so because of his title and the responsibilities he described.
Before continuing, let me say that I know how banks can operate.
I've worked for small banks and I've worked for global financial behemoths.
I've worked for strong banks and I've been an employee of an FDIC 'asset'.
Not that I'm good at it, but I do understand the politics that go on in a bank,
I know the regulatory environment can choke the best of them. and
Banking (for the most part) is still a middle-aged-white-man's world.
I get it. ...continuing...
I can't remember, in my more than 15 years spent with JPMorgan Chase, Chemical Bank, and predecessors - when I've encountered anyone more closed minded or provincial than Bob. It's now been almost 7 years since I left New York City and my employer, JPMorgan Chase - but still. I was surprised.
The conversation went like this:
I asked Bob about the role he played at Key Bank. Suffice it to say, he's a regional big dog.
He asked what I did and I described working with companies helping them understand and then integrate new social engagement strategies and tools into their business. He made a brief comment about the hype of social "network" marketing and I added that yes, most small businesses are initially interested in the marketing aspect, but that there were a number of applications for social media / new technology in business.
Then he said, he required his people to:
Come to his office in person to deliver a message if they were in the same building (floor)
Otherwise pick up the phone.
He ended with "I hate email." I'm sure he allowed email, but I can't remember if he told me specifically.
After Bob described how the advancement in technology was causing him grief, he described how he refused to succumb and get a Blackberry. He couldn't understand the value of being that connected. I payed attention, nodded and "hmmm"-ed politely.
Another man walked up and joined our conversation. Then another man. Pretty soon the three of them were guffawing with each other about Facebook and Twitter. They asked me "What's so great about social media?" I was almost able to give a response. Almost. Had they not been cracking each other up to such an extent, I would have said responded that it wasn't social media that was so great, but the opportunities for engagement and
relationship development that the social media helped facilitate.
Alas, it must have been a rhetorical question.
I smiled, held out my hand and said "It's been real nice talking to you gentlemen." Then I took my leave.
In fairness, these guys may have been great friends who really enjoyed giving each other a hard time. Men are from Mars, yeah, yeah.
But all I could think of was, "Wow. This man is in a leadership position at Key Bank."
I bank with Key and have since I moved to Maine in 2003. I'm a client. Maybe not Bob's client, specifically. But, heck. I'm still a client.
...and about social media being relevant, Bob - I'm not a social media rock star, but I do have a small following...
i.e. people who read my stuff...
i.e. people who own businesses and need banking services...
i.e. people to whom you might want to present Key Bank's services...
i.e. people with whom you might like to engage.
Think about it, Bob. We'll see.
side note: A couple of friends suggested I reconsider posting this. After doing so, here it is in it's original form. From my perspective, this is an honest account of an interaction I experienced at an open, public business networking event. I believe it is very telling on a number of levels. Take from it what you will, what you want to - or not.
The purpose of posting here is to share my insights and experience. Sometimes it's pretty and sometimes it's just plain BOLD. If I didn't follow through, I'd have to rename my business TurkeyVisionConsulting. Doesn't have the same ring now, does it.
the way in which social media cuts across customer services, PR and
marketing there is no one size fits all answer to where social media
operations best sit in a company."
Yes, this is true, but it's just part of the story. It's true: there is no one-size-fits all answer to where social media best 'sits' in a company. And yes, social media does cut across customer service, PR and marketing.
But social media also cuts across product development, sales, operations, human resources and most any other company function. Social media is an engagement channel. Marketing is about engaging and relating. BUSINESS is about engaging and relating - not only with an external audience (prospects & clients) but with internal audiences also (employees).
If, "where social media best sits" means "where the "information" winds up internally", doesn't it depend on what message the information is communicating? A better question in this instance would be how is the information / message going to get to the right people internally?
If, however, "where social media best sits" means"who is in charge of social media", think about the question above and ask who is best positioned to effectively and efficiently get this information, these messages to the right people internally?
When companies engage online, whether in a social network, Twitter, Blog or sharing sites; the information that comes back is what I think is the most important determinate of where social media best 'sits'.
The majority of companies don't operate, nor are they organized in a way that supports this kind of cross functional communication. The traditional hierarchical top-down business structure is in conflict with the grass-roots, bottom up engagement that is social media. The view from the C-Suite (CEO, CFO, CIO, or CTO) is often quite different than that on the front line. So before any social media effort can be successful,
The big dogs, aka the C-Staff, has to be fully supportive, and
The messaging going out and coming in has to be consistence and shared across the entire company.
Pack quotes EConsultancy's Social Media and Online PR survey saying less than one in five (19%) of companies use cross-functional
teams to manage their social media activity. That is a number that
could and should grow significantly over the next year.
I'll add to that - it's a number that better grow significantly over the next year.
Here's an idea for an organization with a cross-function social media team. Sample_Social_Media_OrgChart. Let me know what you think. Will it work?
Next, it's time to determine #3) How are you going to do it?What are you going to use, where can you connect with (#2) to make (#1) happen?
Here's where the fun starts.
Because this is typically the 'fun' part, far too many people start with the How before defining the What and the Who. It reminds me of the saying "If you don't have a map you'll never know where you're going or if you get there..." or something like that. But think how true that is!
Consider this: Bob needs a new vehicle and goes into a Ford dealership and buys one of the new Ford Fiestas. The car has gotten phenomenal reviews, is really cute and there are thousands of dollars in rebates offered. The dealership is even throwing in a new Bose stereo system and $5000 for his clunker trade-in. He'd be crazy to pass this up, right?
He gets into the car to drive away and then addresses his What ...what he wants to happen or Why he is investing in a car: which is that he needs a vehicle to pull his new 16ft Air Stream trailer.
Or how about the Who... who is going to be driving the car or who is going to be riding in the car... Bob didn't stop to think about his 250 lb frame fitting in that small car or carting his 6 kids back and forth to school and soccer practice...
All of a sudden the Ford Fiesta isn't the best How.
This might be a lame example, but think about it. Why would you do ANYTHING that was costing you valuable resources unless it was the right thing? smart? best?
The How in marketing, in general, and social media, in specific, is about picking the right channel(s) for you to deliver your message most effectively in order to achieve your objective.
I love this case study and have used in a few of my speeches recently. We'll use this campaign to focus on the three questions covered in this and my two previous posts: WHAT (Objective), WHO (Targeted audience/market) and HOW (Best tool(s) / channel(s) to use). WHAT:
Short Term: Reach & engage target audience through relevant and cost-effective media…
Long Term: Build a database of Acuvue users to foster dialog & loyalty
WHO:18 - 29 year olds in Australia
The target audience would be highly attracted to elements that were friendly, cute, and fun.
HOW: Facebook application called the 'Acuvue Wink'.
At the time Facebook was still emerging as a social networking platform in Australia and 'Acuvue Wink' was the first branded Facebook application to be launched here. Being the first brand to leverage the power of this
medium would position Acuvue, the brand, as innovative and on-trend, a key attribute important in attracting an 18 - 29 year old audience.
"We developed more than 20 different winks, allowing users to send flirty, shocked and mischievous winks — we also developed Christmas winks to be sent across the holiday season. The subtle branding on the application meant that users were comfortable sending the winks helping us deliver our reach objectives and making 'Wink' a formidable viral execution."
Here's the Wink Campaign in action:
Johnson & Johnson attracted people (the users) to the Facebook application through highly targeted Facebook ads, emails sent to their op-in list and links on their website.
Once on the Facebook application, the user was asked to share information / name, email address, mailing address, etc. This gave Johnson & Johnson data, helping them achieve their long term objective.
While still on the Facebook 'Wink' application, the user was then directed to a selection of 'winks' from which they would pick one and then enter the name / email address of the recipient of their 'wink'.
After entering the primary recipient, the user was given the option of 'winking' to any or all of their other Facebook friends as well as anyone else for whom they cared to enter an email address.
Think about this strategy. From a single email, one click from the Johnson & Johnson website or Facebook page, the Acuvue brand has the potential to be 'presented' to hundreds of people in their target audience, (depending at how many people this single user elected to 'wink'). This is the beauty of what is social media marketing - the one to many ratio - and where the term 'viral' marketing comes from.
To close out this post, I'm sure you're wondering how the campaign performed. Yet, before you can know the success or failure of a project, you first have to have benchmarks against which you are measuring. Here's the stats for the Acuvue Wink Campaign:
BENCHMARKS: (the initial phase, running from August 1, 2007 to December 31, 2007)
Application downloads: Target: 10,000 Number of unique wink receivers: Target: 100,000 Number of winks sent: Target: 500,000
RESULTS: (the initial phase, running from August 1, 2007 to December 31, 2007)
Application downloads: Target: 10,000 Actual: 65,000 Number of unique wink receivers: Target: 100,000 Actual: 516,000 Number of winks sent: Target: 500,000 Actual: 1,030,000
Most importantly the volume sales of 1-Day Acuvue Moist contact lenses increased by a massive 17% versus the previous quarter. The online only campaign also enabled the brand to reach its highest awareness levels ever.